Jul 4 / Anna Miley

Three campaign challenges & the mindsets needed to overcome them

Campaign trail challenges

With the 2024 NSW local government elections just around the corner, candidates are out on the campaign trail. Campaigning for civic office is a high energy undertaking which can throw up unforeseen challenges.

For many passionate first-time candidates, the combative and competitive nature of local politics can catch them off-guard and leave candidates questioning their suitability. You may start to go down an existential rabbit hole - asking yourself questions such as “Will people like me? Do I know enough? How will I cope?”.   Whilst these types of thoughts are normal, getting stuck on them can create unhelpful mindsets that will undermine your success. This article provides strategies to bolster your resilience and support you to survive and thrive during the campaign.

Competitive nature of campaigning

Being in competition with others can be uncomfortable for some people. Outside of competitive sports, we are rarely exposed to competing with others in the public arena. And so, putting yourself out there to “win” a seat at the table can be a daunting prospect.

Candidates may find themselves confusing the competitive nature of campaigning with a personality contest, and question whether they are likeable or popular enough. In this sense, being in campaign mode requires you to manage public perception and maintain confidence even when you may not be feeling it.

Will people like me?

Building a self-belief mindset is important to be able to continue to confidently engage in the campaign while maintaining perspective.

Positive affirmations
can be useful to affirm your strengths and capabilities. You can list past achievements as well as professional and personal skills that remind you that you are qualified to run for office.

Challenge negative thoughts
. Learn how to recognise and challenge negative self-talk. Replacing self-doubting thoughts with new phrases that give you perspective and a more positive approach.

Combative nature of political campaigning

A large part of political campaigning is letting community members know your agenda and what you stand for – what issues will you take action on and how will you do that if you are elected.

You may also find yourself wanting to discredit other candidates campaign promises or being discredited by them. Some candidates take a personal approach to discrediting other candidates in the public arena. This can be hurtful and difficult to process, especially if it is not your style of politics.

Candidates will often need to deal with personal attacks both on and offline. This can become overwhelming and may lead candidates to question if they can cope with the combative nature of politics.

How do I cope?

To bolster against this challenge, we encourage you to develop a resilience mindset.

Focus on goals and values: Stay focused on your campaign goals and the values they stand for. When faced with personal attacks, remind yourself why you are running for office and how you want to positively impact their community.

Practice having difficult conversations:
Understand that in politics, criticism and personal attacks can be inevitable. Practice focusing on constructive responses (play the ball, not the person) or ignoring negativity that doesn't contribute to your campaign.

Competency doubts

The local government learning curve is steep! We have seen many a passionate community member put their hand up to lead and quickly realise they might not know as much as they thought about local government.

To campaign successfully candidates need to be across complex and varied issues that will extend beyond their patch of their local government area. Being able to provide informed answers to public and media questions is important for credibility – no one wants to be on top 'Mount Stupid'.

To ensure you do know enough and that you avoid the pitfall of ”Mount Stupid”, a growth mindset is imperative.

Do I know enough?

Having a growth mindset means being comfortable with not knowing everything and making an effort to continually learn. Here are two ways to develop a growth mindset:

Seek feedback. Seek feedback from trusted peers, mentors or community members. It can be particularly helpful to ask for feedback from trusted people who don’t share your views to gain deeper insight. Constructive feedback can help you identify areas for improvement and build confidence in your competencies.

Strive for continuous improvement.
 Adopt a mindset of continuous improvement and be flexible and open-minded when faced with new challenges or information. It is important to frame setbacks as learning opportunities.

Wrapping up

Campaigning for local government office is likely to be a rewarding but challenging experience. Candidates may find themselves under-prepared for the combative and competitive nature of campaigning or discover knowledge gaps that have them questioning their competency. To bolster your sustainability across the campaign period we encourage candidates to adopt these mindsets - resilience, self-belief, and growth. These mindsets will not only help in managing personal and external pressures during the campaign but ensure you have something left in the tank on election day!

Want to unpack this a little more? Join us on 15th August 2024 at 12.30pm for a complimentary webinar with Anna Miley, mindset and wellbeing coach. Anna will provide practical strategies to not just survive but thrive in your election campaign. 

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